Wednesday, 7 February 2018

A beurre necessity/ potted shrimps

It seems these days that we heap criticism on TV chefs for the amount of butter they use.In my opinion butter has been unfairly demonised, and of course, if you eat too much of it you might become fat.What the supermarkets offer as an alternative is even worse.Plastic tubs of margarine (“Margarine is one molecule away from plastic.”) and other weird low-fat nonsense that  have usurped the proud pat of butter in the modern kitchen.
Over time a diet high in saturated fats, such as butter, can lead to raised blood pressure cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Yet a variety of blogs indicate the public are not convinced. Some people reasserted the golden oldie, a substantive part of a balanced diet, in moderation of course.
A crucial part of my morning routine, like many others, involves a visit to the kettle, swiftly followed by the toaster. It’s therefore a concern knowing that my two slices of buttered toast, peanut butter and a mug of tea with full fat milk contain 16.1g of saturated fat – already 80% of my daily allowance, and not even an hour of the day completed!
I will always want my Sunday morning poached egg laid upon a slice of thickly buttered, soft white toast rather than oil-soaked bruschetta. And it is only best butter that makes scrambled eggs taste so good. An omelette without butter is unacheivable.When it comes to mushrooms on toast,there must be butter and plenty of it.This is not bruschetta - olive oil and garlic have no place here.This is the best of the something-on-toasts.Crunchy soggy and utterly butterly.
 Though a Spanish tortilla made with onions quietly stewed in olive oil may be fabulous when perfectly executed, it will always be a secondary treat compared with onions stewed in butter.the same can be said of onion gravy.
Shiny happy people thicken their gravy with butter, mixing equal parts of soft butter and flour to form a paste(beurre manié).And of course the French classic, beurre blanc,quite frankly, indispensable to any cook.
Lemon curd ,potted shrimps,anchovy butter are all unachievable without it.A fish finger butty without it would be unthinkable. Asparagus, too, is glorious eaten warmly buttered. And if I ever found that my new potatoes were glazed with olive oil rather than butter, I would regrettably have to shoot the cook. Discreetly, of course.The onions that begin the making of a risotto, I have always believed, should be gently stewed in butter, rather than olive oil. Yet cooking onions in olive oil now seems to be the initial instruction of all risotto recipes.And what is ghee,the staple fat of India,but clarified butter? Curry just wouldn´t be curry without it. Suet, lard,goose fat,duck fat,extra virgin olive oil, all have their places,and it is easy enough to cook many a nice dish without butter.But a butterless cuisine anywhere outside the mysterious Orient beggars belief.Lots of butter. Whole lots of butter. So much butter that no one person should consume on a regular basis. And yet, you need even more.To make puff pastry, you need to feel like butter is your friend and treat it as such.
Pick up a buttercup and hold it under the other person´s chin .You ask "Do you like butter?" You already know the answer,because the buttercup throws a pool of yellow light under the chin,as a sign that,yes,they like butter.It always does and they always do.But then nobody ever says "NO".I wonder if parents have stopped playing this game with their children when butter became demonised.When I was growing up post, second world war, not much butter was used for cooking, which I have to confess is what happens to most of ours nowadays.The reason being that in those days most butter was salted and you can´t really cook with that unless you are a Breton.Off pat, butter is not a luxury item it is an essential.
As with other childhood memories of unpasteurised milk in a glass bottle or a lick of thick, pale yellow cream, there is something about a lump of butter cut with a big knife from a block that speaks of special treats.I was a dedicated lover of butter from birth.In those days there was only Anchor (salted) or Wheelbarrow (unsalted )to choose from.Nowadays buying butter can be as hard as buying shoes.The last time I went to Appolonia ( the Waitrose of the Algarve I was faced with the quandary of choosing between 20 or more different varieties.Did I want to pay €3 for a meagre 125g of Burro Occelli made from the milk of Piemontese Bruna Alpina cows or perhaps The Appellation d´Origine Controlée Lanqeuetot Beurre d ísigny demi-sel in a glazed claypot?
Next time I will fly past the butter section just throwing in two 250g blocks of Portuguese unsalted butter at half the price.I am not saying though that folded into its hand-wrapped paper package, artisan hand-churned butter seems like it would be a heavenly present bought for oneself.For butter for worse, tell you what, I am not even considering shaking up even my favourite morning routine. I know what jug I’ll be using to pour my milk, and which side my bread’s (not!) going to be buttered…
What do you think to it all – would you give up your toast’s best friend in pursuit of a healthier heart?
"Zip it shrimpy" - Potted shrimps my way
Potted shrimps are in a league of their own.Properly spiced and potted,they are simply one of my favourite things.Who can resist delicious,buttery shrimp on toast?

100g/4oz butter
2 blades of mace
a good pinch of cayenne pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
570ml/1 pint peeled  shrimps
6 tbsp clarified butter
grated zest of 1 lime
tsp freshly grated ginger
small sprig of coriander leaves chopped finely
Put the butter, mace, cayenne pepper, lime zest, ginger, coriander leaves and a little grated nutmeg into a medium-sized pan and leave to melt over a gentle heat.
Add the peeled shrimps and stir over the heat for a couple of minutes until they have heated through, but don't let the mixture boil. 
Remove the mace and divide the shrimps and butter between 6 small ramekins. Level the tops and then leave them to set in the fridge.
Spoon over a thin layer of clarified butter and leave to set once more. Serve with plenty of brown toast or crusty brown bread.

2 comments:

  1. What a glorious case you made for butter! I'm with you all the way.

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  2. Absolutely.

    & the potted shrimp have to go on the short list for the Tasting Menu

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